Andra deploys Pure Storage solutions for greener future

Andra deploys Pure Storage solutions for greener future

Olivier Tardy, Head of Infrastructure and Operations at Andra, tells us how Pure Storage’s solutions aligned with Andra’s business goals for greener data centre operations.

Olivier Tardy, Head of Infrastructure and Operations at Andra

Could you elaborate on the specific challenges Andra faced with its legacy IT infrastructure that prompted the decision to seek a more modern solution?

Andra is the French National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management. We faced several significant challenges with our legacy IT infrastructure, which ultimately led us to seek a more modern digital storage platform. One of the primary issues was the need for enhanced security and reliability – both of which are, of course, critical given our line of business.

Managing highly sensitive data related to the long-term storage of dangerous radioactive substances demands robust protection. The increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks made it clear that our existing system was no longer sufficient to safeguard this critical information. There were also some redundancy problems – for example, we had arrays that were active-active but there were times when we saw between 200GB to 300GB of data not replicated between them. This severely jeopardised our Disaster Recovery plans.

Monitoring our storage environment wasn’t intuitive either. Often times we weren’t sure what capacity we had left, as the admin interface wasn’t clear. Because of this, our outsourced helpdesk was always complaining, and each time we upgraded our systems, our team needed to undergo training in order to get comfortable with the technology.

And finally, over the last couple of years, sustainability and energy efficiency have also become critical issues for our organisation. We wanted to counter misconceptions about the environmental impact of nuclear waste management, and focus on being an environmentally conscious agency. This meant we had to evaluate the carbon footprint of our entire IT stack, including storage.

We sought to address these challenges by partnering with Pure Storage. Their modern high-performance infrastructure has been designed to improve data security, simplify management and enhance energy efficiency, aligning perfectly with Andra’s mission and environmental goals.

What stood out in Pure Storage’s solutions that aligned with Andra’s business goals for greener data centre operations?

Three vendors were invited to be part of the RFP. Interestingly, Pure’s solution was the first that we did a PoC with and they set the bar exceptionally high. The Pure Storage user interface was very simple, but what really blew us away was the demo they did for us – we were in a data centre in Paris, in front of a production array, and the Pure team removed power, SSDs and memory cards, while the array continued to work! We requested similar demos from the other vendors but they declined. For us the decision was clear as day – Pure was the way to go.

Of course, performance was also key and Pure stood out in this aspect as well. For example, HPE informed us that their solution provided a specific pre-set data deduplication ratio. And by comparison, Pure first installed software at our sites to analyse our data and demonstrated the data reduction rate in real-time, which turned out to be an impressive 7:1.

Needless to say, while ease of use and performance are critical, the reality is that costs are always a factor. Luckily for us, Pure managed to hit the trifecta! The other vendors wanted to replace the whole array at the end of five years, while Pure Storage said we could buy a storage array and at regular intervals upgrade our controllers, non-disruptively, as part of their Evergreen program. So, while Pure Storage had a higher upfront cost, when we factored in the additional expenses associated with data migration and forklift upgrades for the other two vendors, Pure ultimately had the lowest TCO.

How did Pure Storage help facilitate the reduction in Andra’s carbon footprint, and can this go further?

One of the most significant changes we saw following the implementation of the Pure Storage arrays was the reduction in total energy consumption. With Pure, we were able to cut the energy usage of our data centre by 20%. This not only lowered our operational costs but has also contributed significantly to reducing our overall carbon emissions.

Our physical data centre footprint also scaled back appreciably – from 30U to just 3U. This reduction translates directly into lower energy consumption and cooling needs, further decreasing our carbon footprint.

In total, Pure’s platform has helped cut our CO2 emissions by four tons per year. And because we’ve signed up for Pure’s Evergreen program, we can manage product lifecycles more sustainably. Pure’s innovative approach allows for non-disruptive software and hardware upgrades, meaning we can extend the lifespan of our equipment and significantly reduce e-waste.

Given that we are committed to setting the gold standard for the industry when it comes to sustainability, Pure Storage is an invaluable partner.

What obstacles arose during the implementation process and how were these overcome?

I’m happy to say that the migration from our HPE 3PAR system to the Pure Storage FlashArray was smooth overall. Of course, there were minor hiccups, particularly because some systems were configured specifically to suit the previous storage technology, but those were ironed out in a timely manner.

How does Pure Storage’s technology enhance Andra’s data protection strategy, particularly in mitigating the risks posed by cyberattacks?

Given the nature of our operations, cyberattacks are a major worry for us. Pure Storage has been a great help in reducing this risk with their SafeMode feature on FlashArray. This feature automatically creates unchangeable, read-only snapshots of our data at specific points in time. If we ever face a ransomware attack, these secure snapshots give us clean copies of our data that can’t be tampered with or deleted by hackers. This is crucial for us because it means we can quickly restore our systems to their pre-attack state, minimising downtime and preventing data loss.

Can you discuss the measures taken to ensure Business Continuity and minimise downtime during the implementation/transition to the Pure Storage platform?

In previous years, we conducted an exercise where we turned off half of our hardware to see if we could maintain operations. With the HPE 3PAR arrays, this process was complicated. We had to stop the system via software, wait for it to cool down, and then finally cut the power. This didn’t simulate a real-world scenario accurately. In contrast, with Pure’s FlashArray, we can directly cut the power, and the service will continue without any human intervention.

Over the past year, I’ve also come to appreciate the value of proactive alerts. Pure Storage sends us messages to warn of potential minor incidents, usually well before our outsourcing contractor even notices them. This early warning system has been incredibly useful to ensure quality of service and Business Continuity.

What are Andra’s future plans in leveraging its partnership with Pure Storage to further optimise operations?

With the new deployment successfully underway at our headquarters, the next step will be to replace the HPE arrays at our radioactive waste sites. Ideally (although it is not a necessity), we would love to standardise with Pure Storage arrays across all locations due to their excellent performance, ease of use, technical support and overall lower TCO. This is something that we will be exploring over the next few years.

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